Amid an increasing body of consumer research showing that more Americans are using their mobile devices for more than just voice, The Pew Internet Project surveyed 1,623 U.S. adult Internet users in December, 2006. The survey broadly asked about wireless Internet access, whether on desktops, laptops or mobile phones.
Here are the top-level findings:
Some 34% of Internet users have logged onto the Internet using a wireless connection, either around the house, at their workplace, or some place else. In other words, one-third of Internet users, either with a laptop computer, a handheld personal digital assistant (PDA), or cell phone, have surfed the Internet or checked email using means such as WiFi broadband or cell phone networks.
Pew also found that 20% of its respondents had “wireless networks at home, double the number recorded in January 2005.”
Wireless networks in the home have practical implications in terms of impact on other media consumption (i.e., television, print yellow pages, print newspapers, radio). And use of WiFi networks outside the home contributes to an expectation that the Internet will be available anywhere.
However in both cases, access is typically on a PC, which is still a PC. In other words, the user experience is more or less consistent whether the access is tethered or wireless. More Interesting to me among the findings are those concerning Internet access on cell phones and PDAs. Here’s what Pew said on that issue:
Cell phones: One quarter (25%) of Internet users say they have a cell phone that connects to the Internet with a wireless connection. Among Internet users with this capability on their cell phone, half (54%) have used it to get on the Internet either at home, work, or someplace other than home or work. Among those with cell phones that can connect to the Internet:
–47% have done this someplace other than home or work. –28% have done this at work. –27% have done this while at home.
Personal digital assistants (PDAs): One in eight (13%) Internet users have a PDA that can connect to the Internet using a wireless network. Of these, most (82%) have used it to connect at home, work, or someplace other than home or work. Specifically:
–56% of those with a web-enabled PDA have used it to access the Internet or email away from home or work. –49% have done this with their PDA at home. –38% have used their PDA to connect to the web or email at work.
Accordingly, Pew asserts that roughly 13.5% of U.S. Internet users are accessing the Internet over mobile phones (or their equivalents). These numbers are broadly consistent with recent comScore and M:Metrics data showing that, respectively, 17% and 15% of mobile users access Internet content on their phones.
In real numbers, in the U.S., the comScore and M:Metrics numbers mean anywhere from 30 to 34 million people (using a base of 200 million phones) are getting mobile Internet content. The Pew data are measured in this document against a base of all U.S. Internet users, which the organization says is now 70% of the U.S. population. That would mean roughly 35 million Americans now access mobile Internet content over a cell phone or PDA.